On Wednesday, May 5th, there was another open house event for the Westlake Ave cycle track. This was the latest in a series of events for getting public input on the proposed dedicated cycle lanes to link the Fremont Bridge to SLU and Downtown.
Last night's event was the first one open to the public since mayor Murray created a panel of stakeholders (including business owners opposed to the cycle track) to inform the design process. This time the event was held at Fremont Studios, just off the Burke Gillman trail in Fremont. The large space was needed to accommodate the large crowd of attendees, coming both from the bicycle community as well as residents and businesses along Westlake Ave.
At the entrance to the event, cycle advocates were handing out green stickers to note support of the cycle track. To the left of the entrance, "Westlake Stakeholders" (a group who has formed in opposition to the cycle track) were selling blue T-shirts to attendees to mark support for the local businesses.
The crowd inside was quite large and seemed divided evenly between bicyclists and folks wearing those blue shirts being sold at the entrance. Several display boards were present, showing relevant information to the cycle track and staff were present to answer questions related to the display boards. There were also several tables with detailed segments of the Westlake ave parking corridor with paper provided for comment for each segment.
In the speech held around 6.15pm, an overview of the need for the project and some background on the previous studies was given. During the speech both the safety concerns and a desire towork with local businesses to minimize impact were strongly emphasized.
For the Q&A period, a majority of the questions appeared to come from the opposition, which generally consisted of:
- Why can't this cycle track be on Dexter instead?
- Is the city aware how much this will hurt local businesses?
- How much parking are we going to lose?
The Dexter question was mostly addressed by noting that Dexter is a steep hill and that the existing structures are not adequate for many users. The other two questions were mainly addressed by asking the folks present at the meeting to provide ideas to help the designers work around the problems the people who live and work along Westlake are facing.
A number of the questions were asked again and again in a different form, especially the Dexter and impact on businesses questions.
The questions from supporters mostly dealt with the use of the parking lot by people not in the area, the suggestion of charging "market rates" for parking and referencing the speed limit of the cycle track. The first two questions were addressed as "interesting questions that could be looked into". It was made pretty clear though that the design speed was going to be 10 mph and would likely not be reconsidered.
After the Q&A there was additional time allowed for folks to ask direct questions to staff members individually, but most of the crowd cleared the building and headed home.
It appears that there is still quite a lot of support and opposition for this cycle track, but there may be some room for compromises to try and appease both sides. Many of the stakeholders group oppose the loss of any parking at all, but perhaps if some new management schemes of the existing lot are brought up it could address some of the space issues in the existing parking supply. It was also suggested that the sidewalks that were widened previously to allow for bikes and pedestrians to share some room be narrowed, and that space be used toward the cycle track. This concept was new to the panel members and may be looked into in the future.